NEWS: Global Mentoring Solutions is now part of the Sherweb family. Click here to read more about the acquisition.

Whether you’re selling hot dogs on a busy street corner or a Mercedes from a local car dealership, when your customers’ expectations haven’t been met, it negatively affects future sales opportunities. Regardless of industry or country, virtually every privately-held company is either engaged in service-oriented operations or has to respond to product purchase or repair issues. Like it or not, customer service is a part of every business, and in an MSP organization, it’s a make-or-break activity.

The cost of a poor consumer experience is impossible to measure, though some have attempted it. In 2010, research firm Greenfield Online and Datamonitor/Ovum (along with Genesys, a provider of customer service and contact center software) estimated the annual U.S. loss at approximately $83 billion. Their calculation was based on defections and abandoned purchases resulting from poor experiences. With the growth in services since 2010, a similar survey conducted today would likely show significantly greater revenue drain from performance issues.

One other interesting point from this survey was how age affects an individual’s inclination to sever business relationships. Consumers between the age of 27 and 43 severed 1.52 business associations per year, while those between 44 and 62 make changes at a much lower rate of once per year. That trend could be interpreted a couple ways; either the previous generation is more loyal and willing to honor contracts, or they become less tolerant of change as they age. What does that mean for MSPs? Younger decision makers may not have the same patience for delays or mistakes as older executives or owners. If MSPs base their customer service goals on the needs of their most demanding clients, the discrepancies become a non-issue. But be aware, the demands for greater improvement may never subside.

How do MSPs set realist expectations for their customer service teams, and other employees who support their clients? Regardless of size, every provider should start with a written plan that includes measurable and attainable customer satisfaction goals. By following a few, simple rules, every MSP can improve client retain rates and ensure greater long-term business opportunities. Those guidelines include:

1. Prioritize customer service

Most MSPs rely on recurring revenue contracts and repeat project work, making renewals and returning customers a key to long-term success. Customer service is surprisingly often the last item listed in an MSP’s business plan, making it appear less important than other company priorities. The real reason some executives’ place their clients’ support objectives at the end of the document is to show their significance, as these activities are crucial to the attainment of many of the company’s other goals. It wouldn’t hurt to emphasize that point in your plan, perhaps starting and ending the document by stressing the importance (and company commitment) to superior customer service.

2. Put the right people in the right place

Staff your operations with quality employees, especially those with client-facing responsibilities. MSPs need to ensure that their key people have the appropriate training and skills, and are rewarded for providing quality customer service. Those who pay help desk employees the lowest wage, or give them the fewest perks, often find their motivation lacking—and their clients dissatisfied with the support they receive. Just remember, companies don’t help customers…people do.

Make sure to give the sales and support teams the training and tools they need to properly represent your company, as well as performance-based incentives to keep them properly focused. And timely feedback on their performance is crucial: not just to correct problems, but to reinforce positive actions and good deeds.

To continue reading part 2 of this series, for rules 3, 4 and 5 – click here.